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Petitions declared "invalid", city moves toward baseball vote

Published: Jul. 10, 2012 at 6:07 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2012 at 4:32 AM EDT
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Wilmington City Council moved forward on putting baseball up for a vote in November
Wilmington City Council moved forward on putting baseball up for a vote in November

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – It appears Wilmington residents will get a chance to cast their vote about building a baseball stadium along the downtown riverfront.

Council members passed three resolutions Tuesday night regarding the baseball issue. They also said negotiations will continue next week with Mandalay and representatives from the Atlanta Braves, on a deal to build the stadium and bring a minor league team to Wilmington. If the parties reach an agreement, the $42 million figure in the resolutions could be changed. Council has until August 7 to change that figure, and still have it on the ballot in November.

City Clerk Penelope Spicer-Sidberry told council members she has declared petitions filed by opponents of a taxpayer-funded stadium "insufficient". Spicer-Sidberry and City Attorney Bill Wolak explained that the petitioners did not file affidavits to verify the signatures in the petition, which city code requires. Spicer-Sidberry also said more than 60 dates of birth for signees are invalid. City code also requires birthdates for those who sign the petitions.

Council went into a closed session just before 11:00pm, and when members returned they voted to accept Spicer-Sidberry's declaration. An e-mail from a city spokeswoman later said council members instructed staff to negotiate to buy a downtown piece of property for a baseball stadium. The property is along the riverfront, and currently owned by Chuck Schoninger of  Riverfront Holdings II, LLC.

"I think that's where a lot of people want to see it (a stadium) go," said Mayor Bill Saffo after the meeting adjourned. "If we can put it there, we will be one of the few cities in the entire country that will have a baseball stadium on the river. What a beautiful setting in downtown on our riverwalk. I think it would do phenomenal."

Council has scheduled a special meeting on the baseball issue for July 24, and a public hearing on the bond referendum resolution for August 7. Council members also stressed that if negotiations with the other parties (Mandalay and the Braves) do not proceed favorably for the city, they have the option of halting the process to put the bond referendum on the ballot.

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